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Jun 08 , 2010
Helicopter pulling powerline in 2007
A helicopter, similar to this one, will be used to assist in placing new power poles in the St. Joe River Valley
next week. This shot was taken in 2007 when a helicopter was used on the Washington and Idaho Palouse
to pull a new transmission line across a large span.

Pole reinforcement
The poles being replaced next week were inspected
in the company’s Wood Pole Replacement program.
Under the program, a percentage of Avista’s over
274,000 service-area poles are evaluated each
year to help ensure reliability of the company’s
electric system. In 2009, Avista spent over $8.2
million on the program. This image shows a crew
reinforcing a wood pole with steel shanks.
About 350 Avista customers in the St. Joe River Valley will experience power outages June 15 thru 17, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day as Avista crews work to replace nine power poles in remote locations, requiring the use of a helicopter.

The outages will affect customers on St. Joe River Road (NFD50) from Scott’s Logging at mile marker 14 to Avery, Idaho.

Over the past year, power poles in portions of the St. Maries area, including the St. Joe River Valley, have been inspected as part of Avista’s on-going Wood Pole Replacement program. Under the program, a percentage of Avista’s over 274,000 service-area poles are evaluated each year to help ensure reliability of the company’s electric system. In 2009, Avista spent over $8.2 million on the program.

According to Matt Swan, Avista’s local representative in St. Maries, pole repairs identified through the inspection having the least impact on St. Maries-area customers have been completed. The remaining work of replacing poles is now causing service interruptions.

“We apologize for the inconvenience this series of outages could create and appreciate the patience for our customers. We encourage those with special considerations to make alternative arrangements during this time frame,” Swan said. “Our crews, with the assistance of a helicopter, will work as quickly and safely as possible to return everyone to service.”
Published: 6/8/2010  11:08 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 26 , 2010
Outage restoration
An Avista crew fixing
an outage in winter
Post by Dan Kolbet

I saw this story getting passed around twitter today. Turns out a power outage for this particular family in the Mid-West, gave them a chance to slow down and reconnect (so to speak).

Check out the Chicago Tribune article, “The power of a power outage.”

Have you ever have an experience like this?
Published: 1/26/2010  11:11 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Dec 10 , 2009
Report an outage
We’ve recently added a new feature to the Avista Utilities website that allows you to report a power outage. Of course, you’ve always been able to call our 1-800-227-9187 customer service number to report an outage, but many people like quick web interactions and we’re serving that need.

“Several years ago, when we were planning what to offer on the web, we looked at the E Source survey results info to determine what customers want on a site,” said Systems Business Analyst Janna Leaf. “Customers clearly indicated to E Source that they want the ability to report an outage on the web. So it's always been our intention to offer the service to our customers, and I believe this will be a great option for our customers.”

In today’s age of technology, it simply makes sense to be able to report an outage on the web.

The new feature offers the same self service options as the current telephone outage reporting system. The customer goes here and reports the outage using an address, phone number or account number. The information provided must match an Avista customer with electric service. We’ve also placed safeguards on information to ensure privacy.

You also get the opportunity to provide detailed outage information, such descriptions of what you saw or heard such as “saw arcing wire” or “heard loud bang” to better assist dispatchers.

Another feature with reporting an outage includes the option of a call back request if there is a change in resolution time or when power is restored. You can also view maps of your area to see how many outages are around you.

No power, no access right?
We all know you can’t use your desktop computer if your power is out. With today’s wireless culture, the new outage reporting function serves the needs of customers who prefer instant online communication and are wireless. The person making the outage report could also be a third party reporting on behalf of the customer.

Reporting an outage on the web is a great option for customers with internet on a mobile phone or wireless laptops. The site may not work on all mobile browsers. In that case, the 1-800-227-9187 number is the best bet.

Another good example of reporting an outage online is when a child comes home after school and there is no power, they can call a parent who can report the outage from their computer or phone.

Avista strives to keep in step with the technology that is being used by our customers. Having the option to report an outage online is another step forward in the right direction.
Published: 12/10/2009  8:09 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 22 , 2009
Avista crews work on a substation in Pullman last spring.

Avista crews work on a substation in Pullman last spring.

About 3,400 Avista customers in Deer Park and Clayton will briefly lose power on Tuesday, Sept. 29 and Wednesday, Sept. 30, between 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.  Crews will be performing maintenance on the substation serving the area.

“We apologize for the inconvenience these two brief outages will cause. However, it is important that we create a safe environment in which crews can work,” said Frank Binder, Avista’s operations supervisor for Deer Park in a news release. “Maintenance on the substation will help ensure the reliability of the equipment serving our customers.”

Like I’ve said before with planned outages – make sure your alarm has a battery or charge your cell phone the night before and set the alarm on that. No excuses for being late to work, right? 

We do planned outages because there is some work that we’re not able to perform on live electric lines or equipment. For the safety of our crews and the public, we shut off the juice for a period of time. We do our best to let people know about planned outages through flyers, notices in the newspaper, phone calls and even this blog and website – but it’s easy to miss that stuff. If you know of a neighbor, friend or family member who might have missed these notices, do us and them a favor and give them a ring to double check. 
Published: 9/22/2009  9:20 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 11 , 2009

Click to enlarge

As much as we dislike having planned power outages, with the number of infrastructure improvement projects we’re working on for customers, some planned outages are necessary. They create a safe working environment for our crews. One such project will impact around 2,700 customers in the Lake Roosevelt area in Stevens and Ferry counties in about a week.

The outage will occur on consecutive Thursdays: Sept. 17, Sept. 24, Oct. 1 and Oct. 8 – and will last from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m.

As we said last week in regards to a planned outage in Coeur d’Alene, it’s time to check the batteries in your alarm clock or figure out how to set the alarm on your cell phone (my favorite choice). If your boss reads this blog, you’ll have no excuse for showing up late to work on Friday morning. And trust me, you can’t know if they read us or not!

Our Colville Operations Manager Marshall Law said in a news release today, “This upgrade will ensure that we’re able to reliably meet the energy needs of our customers in this area for years to come.”

So what does improved reliability mean? In this case new, taller steel poles are replacing existing wood poles along Addy-Gifford Road. So we’re moving the exiting power lines to the new structures. With the added height of the lines, inclement weather and trees are less likely to cause outages. The new structures also mean the lines can carry additional power to meet the growing needs of our customers in Stevens and Ferry counties.

You may receive a flier from us about this outage, see a notice in the paper or even get a phone call. Click here for a map of the outage area.

Areas that will be impacted by the planned outages are:
• Stevens County – Cedonia, Daisy, Fruitland, Gifford, Hunters, Rice, Two River and West End. Also, the Summit Valley area west of the Addy Gifford Road and Swiss Valley Road intersection, including Addy Gifford Road, Addy Cedonia Road, Summit Valley Roads, Swiss Valley Road, Clark Lake Road, Egland Road, Gilson Road, Forsland Road, Grimm Road, Burgess Road, and other side roads in the Summit Valley area.

• Ferry County – Inchelium area from Nine Mile Creek north
Published: 9/11/2009  3:35 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 27 , 2009
I just got word that we’re going to have a planned outage next Tuesday, Sept. 1, for some customers along Lake Coeur d’Alene. Our crews are working on improvements to our Ogara substation and they need to shut off the juice for about four hours.

Approximately 760 Avista customers on the east side of Lake Coeur d’Alene from Carling Bay south to Ogara Bay, including the City of Harrison and customers on Hells Gulch Road will be impacted by the outage. About 575 Kootenai Electric Cooperative members on the southeast side of Lake Coeur d’Alene and in the Harrison area will also be impacted. The outage will begin at 3:30 a.m. and is expected to last until about 7:30 a.m.

This event is a good chance to talk about infrastructure upgrades, improved reliability projects and meeting customer demand. We always use those buzz words when talking about rates and why we file requests for increases. This work shows where some of those words are put to action. Customer demand in the area has increased and work on the sub will allow for increased demand.

So, if you live in this area, you’ve got a couple days to find a battery-power alarm for that early morning wake-up call. Personally, I opt for the cell phone alarm. It’s plenty loud and the phone holds a charge for a few days.

If you are impacted by this outage, drop us a line and let us know how it went.
Published: 8/27/2009  4:00 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 04 , 2009
Yesterday we announced that Avista has applied for federal funds under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act for the first of two smart grid electric distribution projects. Read yesterday’s blog post here. This means we’re working to lay the groundwork for smart grid’s technological advances in the future while making our electric distribution system more efficient and reliable today.

In the last post I promised to provide a few details about this first project. Here goes. We’re calling the Spokane smart grid project, Smart Circuits. In a nutshell, the project would dramatically upgrade electric distribution lines, known as “feeders” in the Spokane area. To understand how this work qualifies as “smart grid,” a little Electric Grid 101 is in order.

Let’s consider efficiency first. When electricity is made at a dam or wind turbine, it doesn’t go directly to your house. It twists and turns through transmission lines (big ones), into substations and then distribution lines (littler ones) and eventually to you. Electricity could travel hundreds of miles. During this marathon run, some of its energy is lost. This project would reduce losses – saving ratepayer dollars. It would also reduce carbon emissions by about 15,000 tons per year. This reduction is based on less electricity needing to be produced for the same electric demand.

Now let’s think of reliability. For simplicity sake, assume that if a tree falls on the power line that feeds your neighborhood, everyone who gets power through that line, loses power. We send out a crew to fix it and your lights get turned back on. This might take a few hours, depending on your location and the severity of the damage to the line. Many people are impacted from one small incident on the line.

Now imagine if the power lines were smart enough to know where that tree fell and the system could isolate the issue, and leave most, if not all, of your neighborhood’s power on. The system could do this in seconds. This would be a much better solution for everyone. By installing sensors, capacitors, automatic switches and replacing aging equipment like transformers, this scenario is possible.

Why it’s really smart now
While there are many companies currently researching and developing new technologies that will allow energy users (you) to have more active participation with energy providers (us), through the grid – mass implementation is years out for sure. You can’t just stick a new device in your house and expect to become part of the smart grid. Your utility needs to ensure the grid is equipped with technology and communication equipment to make it happen. Getting our grid ready today means we’ll be ready when future smart grid interactions become reality.

We’ll continue to update the blog about smart grid issues as news breaks, but if you have any questions in the meantime, submit a comment below.
Published: 8/4/2009  8:54 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 13 , 2009
Power outages happen. We don’t want them to happen. Of course you don’t either. The headline of this post is actually pretty silly – “track power outages.” If your power is out, it’s pretty easy to track, right? No lights.
Since October of last year we have posted every power outage on our website and updated the number of customers who are without power in near-real time.
When we first did this, I recall having some interesting conversations with customers and employees about how useful this tool would actually be with customers. It turns out that while your power is out; you’re probably not browsing the web, for obvious reasons. Yet, cell phones work and many people call friends to check the status of an outage (hopefully after calling 1-800-227-9187) to report it to us. If you’re at work during a storm or want to check on an outage for a loved one, it’s pretty easy to look for outages in your area from a list or map view.
The media also uses this tool to watch for outages. When lightning strikes, heavy snows fall or especially if wind whips through in our service territory, the media looks for outages. During big storms outages often lead the local broadcasts or end up in the newspaper.
The tricky part in explaining outages is that currently our website lists “equipment failure” as the cause of nearly every outage. In some sense that is true. If a curious squirrel jumps on a transformer it may open a switch, like a breaker in your house, which turns off the power. If a car hits a utility pole, it might knock a power line down, temporarily cutting power to customers on the other end of the line. If wind snaps a tree branch in half and it goes crashing into the arm of a power pole, breaking an insulator, the power may go out.
In each of the instances above, the “equipment failed,” but not because it was faulty or defective. It failed to keep working because an outside force made it stop working. We work to quickly and safely restore power, regardless of the cause.
So now you know that “equipment failure” doesn’t usually happen on its own – something has to make it so.
Have you called Avista about a power outage? How would you rate your experience? Comment below.
Post by Dan Kolbet
Published: 7/13/2009  1:51 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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